Clinical and angioarchitectural characteristics of spinal vascular malformations of the cervical spine

Waleed Brinjikji, Elisa Colombo, Giuseppe Lanzino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE Vascular malformations of the cervical spine are exceedingly rare. To date there have been no large case series describing the clinical presentation and angioarchitectural characteristics of cervical spine vascular malformations. The authors report their institutional case series on cervical spine vascular malformations diagnosed and treated at their institution. METHODS The authors retrospectively reviewed all patients with spinal vascular malformations from their institution from January 2001 to December 2018. Patients with vascular malformations of the cervical spine were included. Lesions were characterized by their angioarchitectural characteristics by an interventional neuroradiologist and endovascular neurosurgeon. Data were collected on clinical presentation, imaging findings, treatment outcomes, and long-term followup. Descriptive statistics are reported. RESULTS Of a total of 213 patients with spinal vascular malformations, 27 (12.7%) had vascular malformations in the cervical spine. The mean patient age was 46.1 ± 21.9 years and 16 (59.3%) were male. The most common presentations were lower-extremity weakness (13 patients, 48.1%), tetraparesis (8 patients, 29.6%), and lower-extremity sensory dysfunction (7 patients, 25.9%). Nine patients (33.3%) presented with hemorrhage. Fifteen patients (55.6%) had modified Rankin Scale scores of 0–2 at the time of diagnosis. Regarding angioarchitectural characteristics, 8 patients (29.6%) had intramedullary arteriovenous malformations (AVMs), 5 (18.5%) had epidural arteriovenous fistulas (AVFs), 4 (14.8%) had paraspinal fistulas, 4 (14.8%) had mixed epidural/intradural fistulas, 3 (11.1%) had perimedullary AVMs, 2 (7.4%) had dural fistulas, and 1 patient (3.7%) had a perimedullary AVF. CONCLUSIONS This retrospective study of 27 patients with cervical spine vascular malformations is the largest series to date on these lesions. The authors found substantial angioarchitectural heterogeneity with the most common types being intramedullary AVMs followed by epidural AVFs, paraspinal fistulas, and mixed intradural/extradural fistulas. Angioarchitecture dictated the clinical presentation as intradural shunts were more likely to present with hemorrhage and acute onset myelopathy, while dural and extradural shunts presented as either incidental lesions or gradually progressive congestive myelopathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)755-762
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Spine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2020


  • Cervical spine
  • Intramedullary hemorrhage
  • Myelopathy
  • Spinal vascular malformation
  • Vascular disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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